LE BORGNE DE BELLE-ISLE, ALEXANDRE, temporary governor of Acadia, seigneur of Port-Royal; baptized 12 March 1640 at La Rochelle, son of Emmanuel Le Borgne and Janne François; d. c. 1693 at Port-Royal.
Emmanuel Le Borgne had advanced considerable sums of money to Menou d’Aulnay, the former governor of Acadia, to further the latter’s plans for colonization. On d’Aulnay’s death in 1650, Le Borgne sought to recover his outlay. His claims and the steps that he took in consequence were to involve him in sharp quarrels which were a blot upon the history of the colony at that period. Young Alexandre thus grew up in an atmosphere of litigation between people whose roles are still appraised in varying ways by historians.
In the autumn of 1656, two years after the capitulation of Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) to Sedgwick, Acadia was ceded by Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour to two English colonels, Thomas Temple and William Crowne. The following year Emmanuel Le Borgne was appointed governor of Acadia by the king of France, but being unable to leave Europe he sent his son Alexandre to the colony with some 50 men, to take possession of his holdings. The little force seized the fort of La Hève in May 1658 and appropriated for itself the food and pelts that Temple had stored there. Carrying on its campaign, it then unsuccessfully attacked Temple’s fort, constructed at Port-La Tour. Thomas Temple, anxious to avenge the insult, hastened up from Boston and attacked Alexandre Le Borgne’s improvised fort. Le Borgne was wounded during this engagement and then taken to London, where he was held captive for some years. When the Treaty of Breda restored Acadia to France in 1667, Emmanuel Le Borgne recovered his former possessions. The following year he entrusted the government of the colony to his son Alexandre, who from then on took the name of Le Borgne de Belle-Isle.
On 9 Oct. 1668 Alexandre Le Borgne sailed along the Acadian shore, accompanying Morillon Du Bourg, who was the French king’s delegate for the execution of the Treaty of Breda and the representative of the Compagnie des Indes occidentales. Before continuing his journey towards New England, the delegate officially installed Belle-Isle in command of the colony. As soon as he got to Boston, Morillon Du Bourg learned that Temple had received a further letter from Charles II, giving him strict instructions not to hand over the Acadian posts before certain islands in the West Indies had been restored by France to England in accordance with the treaty; Temple complained also about the capture of Port-Rossignol, which had meanwhile been carried out by Belle-Isle. Morillon, accepting Temple’s arguments, wrote Alexandre Le Borgne to warn him to return to France until the litigation concerning the islands was settled. Belle-Isle followed Du Bourg’s advice, but considered that the supplying of his men had represented for him a loss of 20,000 livres. He came back to Acadia in 1670, with Governor Andigné de Grandfontaine, to defend his family’s Acadian interests.
Very little is known about Belle-Isle’s activities in connection with Acadia between 1670 and 1693. Mention is made of him in a deed recording a grant of land in 1679. In 1690 he and Pierre Melanson acted as interpreters in the negotiations concerning the surrender of Port-Royal to William Phips; the latter appointed Belle-Isle a member of the council set up on the spot to govern the conquered territory.
A number of reports from governors of Acadia allow us to infer a good deal about Belle-Isle’s conduct and character. Grandfontaine had tried to limit his powers. According to Perrot, Belle-Isle was addicted to wine. When drunk he was capable of granting the same piece of land to several settlers at once, which could not but cause the farmers considerable vexation. Des Friches* de Meneval had gone so far as to put him in prison for a few days in November 1689, because of irregularities of this nature. Joseph Robinau de Villebon wrote in 1699 that former settlers had told him that Belle-Isle had withdrawn from the records all documents which might incriminate him. Finally Villebon was also convinced that Belle-Isle had not fulfilled his seigneurial duty, which was to see to the development of his lands.
Although he seems to have enjoyed until about 1686 the privileges attaching to the grant of land made to his father, Alexandre Le Borgne was threatened by the legal proceedings instituted in France in 1671 by Dame Marie de Menou d’Aulnay, the canoness of Poussay, who was endeavouring to regain possession of the lands that had been granted to her father. On the other hand, a letter from the minister to Des Friches de Meneval in 1688 reveals that the Le Borgnes were at that moment contesting their eviction from some of their properties in Acadia. When Dame Marie d’Aulnay died in 1691 the action was continued by her half-brothers and half-sisters, the children of Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour and Jeanne Motin. One of their sons in particular, Charles*, carried on the litigation energetically in France against Belle-Isle’s brother, André Le Borgne Du Coudray, against the Duc de Vendôme, and against the Marquis de Chevry, who was a member of the Compagnie des Pêches sédentaires in Acadia.
Alexandre Le Borgne died about 1693 at Port-Royal. He had married Marie de Saint-Étienne de La Tour (d. 1739). They had had seven children. The descendants of this family were sorely tried at the time of the expulsion; people named Le Borgne and Belisle are to be found today in Canada and the United States.
AN, Col., C11D, 1, ff.55–60v, 126; 2–4; Col., E, 277 (dossier La Vallière). Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la Nouv.-France, I, 153–54, 197, 324, 365, 386, 425–26, 439–41; II, 292–93, 351–80 passim. Mémoires des commissaires, I, 286–88; II, 305–8, 310–12 and Memorials of the English and French commissaries, I, 20–24 passim, 121, 591–96, 599–600. PAC Report, 1912, App. E, F. PRO, CSP, Col., 1574–1660, 15 [Laborne]; 1661–68, nos. 1868, 1877, 1898.
Azarie Couillard Després, En marge de La tragédie d’un peuple de M. Émile Lauvrière ou erreurs sur l’histoire d’Acadie (Bruges, 1925); Saint-Etienne de La Tour, 446–47. John Knox, An historical journal of the campaigns in North America for the years 1757, 1758, 1759 and 1760, ed. A. G. Doughty (3v., Champlain Soc., VIII–X, 1914–16), I, notes by Placide Gaudet accompanying a map of Annapolis. Émile Lauvrière, La tragédie d’un peuple: histoire du peuple acadien de ses origines à nos jours (2v., Paris, 1922; éd. rev. 1924), I. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, II, 124. Geneviève Massignon, “La seigneurie de Charles de Menou d’Aulnay, gouverneur de l’Acadie, 1635–1650,” RHAF, XVI (1963), 474. Murdoch, History of Nova-Scotia, I. Rameau de Saint-Père, Une colonie féodale, I. Webster, Acadia, 123–24 (translation of a report of Robinau de Villebon to Pontchartrain, 1699).
Revisions based on:
Arch. en Ligne, Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle, France), “Reg. paroissiaux, pastoraux et d’état civil,” La Rochelle, Saint-Barthélémy, 12 mars 1640: charente-maritime.fr/CG17/jcms/cg17_34489/les-archives-en-ligne (consulted 6 Aug. 2014).